The four bioreactors were delivered by ship in March 2021. The subsequent transportation to the construction site required a well-coordinated operation in collaboration with heavy lifting specialists. After challenging heavy lifting activities over the past few weeks, all four bioreactors are now mounted in an upright position.
The EUR165m Steelanol plant, the first of its kind in Europe, will produce 80 million litres of sustainable ethanol a year, equivalent to nearly half of Belgium’s current annual demand in a market for renewable ethanol with a large growth potential. The sustainable ethanol produced at the Steelanol plant, the first commercial product of ArcelorMittal’s Carbalyst® family of recycled carbon chemicals, can be used as fuel for transport or as a building block for producing chemicals.
With commissioning and first production expected in 2022, this marks an important step towards the circular use of carbon and the end of single-use carbon, whereby gases are no longer regarded as waste but as raw materials. In addition, the recycling of carbon means Steelanol’s process of ethanol production does not compete in any way with food crops or land for food crops, as is the case for ‘traditional’ ethanol.
The process implemented at this site, can not only use industrial gases from today’s steel production methods, but is fully flexible and can adapt as industry transitions to future steel production technologies with increased green hydrogen input. This enables the carbon recycling application to evolve as available residue and waste streams evolve.
The technology was developed by LanzaTech, with whom ArcelorMittal has entered a long-term partnership, together with Primetals Technologies and E4tech.
The process in the bioreactors
The conversion from industrial gas into sustainable ethanol takes place in four bioreactors, which can be considered the heart of the installation. Each bioreactor consists of a tank containing liquid, nutrients and naturally occurring micro-organisms. A key element of the process, created by LanzaTech, is to mix the gas well into the liquid, enabling the micro-organisms to complete the transformation of the carbon containing gas to ethanol in the most efficient conditions. To aim for maximal circularity, a water treatment installation enables the re-use of water, the recovery of valuable nutrients and the production of energy from obtained biogas.